I remember reading these novellas when I was a teenager (14-15) and absolutely loving them. Now I didn’t remember almost a thing from any of them, except for the basic plot of the first one. I decided to re-read this collection to help me remember why I was such a big Stephen King fan back then. Well, I’m still not sure, but overall I did enjoy reading the novellas. Since the book consists of four of them I guess I should write a few words about each separately:
The Langoliers – A group of people travelling on a plane wake up to find that most of the passengers and all of the crew are missing. Fortunately, one of them is a pilot and he is able to get them safely to land, only to find themselves in an isolated world. This story is the one I remembered most from reading 15 years ago, probably because it touches one of my deepest fears and one of the factors that make a horror book/movie good/scary for me – being isolated from the world. Except for that, I liked the development of characters in the story. Everyone was described, and a few truly stood out – which is typical about King novels. My favourite was Dinah (the blind girl) and Toomey (the crazy guy). The insights into his mind and his past are one of the highlights of the story. However, I feel like I’ve grown out of monsters. I am rather aware that monsters in King’s books are to symbolize something, but somehow between now and the last time I read King’s works, I learnt to find them a little ridiculous. So, to sum up – good story, laughable “Pac-mac-like” monsters.
Secret Window/Secret Garden – One day a strange man knocks on the door of a writer, Mort, who is struggling with his divorce and disability to write new material. The strange man claims that the writer’s story was stolen from him and Mort tries to prove him wrong. A story about craziness and double-nature of a human being; about being schizophrenic and the fatal effects. And no monsters! I did know the ending when I was reading this for the second time – vaguely remembered it – so it was a little boring for me. It had great ideas to be a spin-out-of-control story, but King made it too long and too detailed for my (current) taste.
The Library Policeman – My favourite, but I have no solid explanation. It may actually be because it is about a library. And it doesn’t matter that a library was presented as a scary place – a notion completely incomprehensible for me. So, one day a small-town insurance man has to borrow two books from a local library. He’s there for the first time ever, and he meets a strange librarian there – and nobody else. Then there’s some losing of the books, some being chased by Library Policeman and some childhood trauma. It has a nice intrigue/mystery, it’s carried out pretty interestingly till the end, and it has some great insight into the characters’ minds. Again, the monster at the end – a little too ridiculous. Also, the beginning was somewhat slow and the ending somewhat rushed. I still liked it.
The Sun Dog – my least favourite. A boy gets a Polaroid for his birthday, but he soon finds out that it only takes photos of one thing – a dog. Not sure why I disliked it. It had an interesting, creepy idea, there was a demise of the main character, and I really enjoyed the ending. Maybe it just didn’t connect with me very well, or maybe I was tired of reading another weird and too long King story? Not sure, but I sort of suspect it deserves more recognition that I can give it.
Overall, I’d say it was supposed to be novellas/stories, but they were still too long for my taste. Even when I was a great King fan, I used to think he’s a little boring sometimes and he could benefit from shortening his works a bit. It holds true also for this collection. Too long and the monsters are a little too ridiculous. But, on the other hand, Stephen King is one of a kind, creates really fucked-up stories (which I like) and is a master of details (which I love and hate). He could be a little less detached sometimes/more emotional, though.
At the end my rating: 1. The Library Policeman 2. The Langoliers and Secret Window/Secret Garden 3. The Sun Dog